Mancini faces lean winter in his bid to lift City's stock

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The Independent Online

The Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, will not be given money in January to bolster the squad which has proved inadequate for the exacting challenge of the Champions League. Only an injury emergency will trigger any more player investment this season.

A move for Falcao, the Colombian striker, is out of the question, Daniele de Rossi does not fit the club's age profile and the fact that Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell were among the manager's top-five targets this summer gives him no room to argue that he has not been backed financially to build on last season's Premier league title. The two Englishmen have not featured prominently, and Sinclair barely at all, but they were alongside Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie at the top of Mancini's list, with De Rossi as the back-up option if the move for Javi Garcia failed.

Mancini declared after the draw with Real Madrid saw him fail to deliver on this season's targeted Champions League second-round place that City needed "to be passionate" about succeeding in Europe "and to improve our team."

But having completed the first, heavy investment phase of their ownership, the Abu Dhabi owners have now moved to a second "commercial" period, driving up revenues. Mancini has played all his cards in the market and though he remains safe in his job for now, he needs an emphatic Premier League campaign if he is to be confident of extending his City into a fourth full season.

Amid the ruins of the Champions League campaign, there must be a discussion of the decision to move to a three-man defence. Pablo Zabaleta yesterday suggested that the new rear formation which was overwhelmed by Real Madrid early on in Wednesday's match is something that the players are not comfortable with.

"We started the game really slow with some defensive problems, and then we changed to 4-4-2 as we felt more comfortable with that system," Zabaleta said.